Michigan’s Latest Wave of COVID-19 Infections Being Driven by Youth Sports, Child Care

Whitmer won’t rule out new COVID-19 restrictions, but still hopes to see Michigan fully reopen this summer.

Unlike previous surges, Michigan’s latest wave of COVID-19 infections is being driven by young people. 

Sarah Lyon-Callo, the Director of Epidemiology for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, says high school sports like basketball, hockey and wrestling have seen the highest cases since January. Over the past week, state health officials have tied more than 80 new outbreaks to sports. 

Overall, the state has seen nearly 400 outbreaks tied to youth sports and child care. The number of kids 17 and younger requiring hospitalization is up 165% over the past week. 

“By April 12, we could be at more than 4,500 hospitalizations for COVID-19, which exceeds our spring 2020 Peak census.” –Sarah Lyon-Callo, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

Elizabeth Hertel, the director of MDHHS, says the state is hoping to run out the clock on sports like wrestling and basketball. 

“As of this week, I believe indoor sports, for the most part will be completed and we’ll be moving to spring. Those outdoor sports are less contact,” she says. 

The state health department has mandated that high school athletes get tested multiple times per week in order to be able to compete and limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Still, one source of spread ends and another might be beginning.  

Hertel says she expects a rise in infections after people traveled for spring break. She is asking schools to briefly stop in-person instruction. 

“We are encouraging our school districts and our local health departments to consider moving middle school and high school back to virtual for one or two weeks following those breaks to try to continue to slow the spread of the variant among this age group,” Hertel says. 

About 1,500 people under the age of 30 per day are testing positive for the coronavirus, with 35 per day in that age group requiring hospitalization. 

Outbreaks linked to restaurants and bars have also increased over the past week. Since indoor dining resumed two months ago, there hadn’t been a dramatic increase in outbreaks until now. The number of outbreaks tied to restaurants and bars nearly tripled over the past week going from 15 to 44. 

Michigan Leading Country in COVID-19 Indicators 

Over this past week, Michigan has the highest rate of new coronavirus cases in the country, according to the state’s department of Health and Human Services.  

The state’s case rate has increased by 375% since a low on Feb. 19.  

Hospitalizations are also a major concern. As of April 3, Michigan had the highest increase in COVID-19 related hospital admissions among its Midwestern neighbors. More than 3,300 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus in Michigan and the numbers are going up in all regions of the state.  

Lyon-Callo says Michigan Medicine made a grim forecast based on current growth trends. 

“By April 12, we could be at more than 4,500 hospitalizations for COVID-19, which exceeds our spring 2020 Peak census. And for the ICU in the next slide, they’re projecting that we could be over 800 patients in the ICU, which is higher than our winter peak ICU census,” she says. 

Hertel says some hospitals are beginning to look at implementing surge plans.  

New State Restrictions Unlikely 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says new COVID-19 restrictions are not likely. She says the challenge now is get people vaccinated and to comply with existing orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  

“That’s what we don’t know. That’s why moving quickly and getting vaccinations up is our best way to keep that from happening and to resume normalcy,” she says. 

Whitmer says getting to the goal of 70% of eligible Michiganders vaccinated this summer would help ensure a full reopening of the state.  

More than one-third of Michiganders ages 16 and older have gotten at least one vaccine.  

Michigan Radio contributed to this report.

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